Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Basics of Researching LDS Records

Many of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have joined the Church during their own life time or are first or second generation members, will be doing primary genealogical research for their ancestors almost immediately, but for some of those whose ancestors joined the Church many generations ago, there is a completely different challenge in getting started with finding ancestral family members who need their ordinance work completed. From my own experience, at first it appears that "all the work has been done." This is usually not the case, but finding the records and moving beyond research that my have been done in the past is not as easy as looking for 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation ancestors.

One very common fallacy about this work that has been done is that Family Tree is a "source" for finding names to take to the Temple. I often hear of Wards or Stakes challenging their members, either youth or adults, to find a name within a specific time period as a challenge. This can be a simple as adding the names of parents or grandparents for recent converts, but for descendants of longtime members, this sort of challenge is unrealistic and can be very frustrating. The information in Family Tree comes mainly from 5 large historic databases; The Ancestral File, The Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, Church Membership Records and Temple Records. None of these databases are particularly good for finding ancestors whose Temple work remains undone. Both the present Family Tree program and its predecessor, have indicators for potential Temple ordinance availability in the form of green arrows. In the Family Tree program there is also a ordinance alert called Temple "Opportunities."

For those who have joined the Church recently or whose ancestors were not members, the job of adding names that have not had the ordinances done previously is rather straight forward. It involves adding names to the Family Tree program from personal family records or, in many cases, those that are relatively easily obtained through research. For people with families that go back generations in the Church, the job of finding available names is more complex. It is not impossible that individuals, even in very researched family trees, may have been missed for Temple ordinances, but it has been now many years since the introduction of and Family Tree and members have been "mining" these programs for Temple ordinances for that period of time.

Nevertheless, there is a persistent belief that Family Tree is a source for even more names for Temple ordinances. In many cases, rather than follow the warnings and search for duplicates, the users have simply redone the ordinances. To some extent, that problem has been addressed in Family Tree. But it is still incumbent on the members to check carefully to see if the ordinance work has already been done. This is especially true for any ancestor who was already a member of the Church or their descendants.

For more specific information about research ancestors who were members of the Church, see the following links:

These articles and the video should get you started. Remember, it is very likely that anyone you find in Family Tree has already had all of their ordinances done, whether or not they are shown in the program. There are exceptions but you need to proceed with caution. 

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